Retail radio innovates to reach its audience

In South Africa, the adoption of retail radio is delivering results in terms of audience growth and listener affinity, with channels such as Sportscene, Totalsports and Markham innovating with their digital stations.

HaveYouHeard inBroadcasting Division Head, radio legend Jon Savage says success in retail radio depends on critically understanding audience demographics overlaid with tempo maps.

Understand the audience

He explains that while Totalsports is a hard-core sports retail brand, Sportscene is more of a lifestyle. In other words, if buyers need shoes for playing tennis, they go to Totalsports; if they want cool Nike sneakers, they go to Sportscene.

“Sportscene wants to attract a young, highly informed and digital audience. Being ahead of the trend is very important to this audience, so playing a generic in-store FM station wouldn’t resonate with them.

“Our playlist had to be more than traditional radio stations and clubs,” he says.

The action plan was to release new music ahead of major stations and create opportunities for new emerging artists to debut in the in-store audio space.

In addition to determining who the audience was – what they liked, where they hung out, what they were trying to be perceived – tempo mapping helped strategists understand when audiences entered the store, what he was looking for and how he behaved at different times of the day and on different days of the week.

The tempo cards led them to “pick up the tempo” on Friday afternoons and include DJ mixes on weekend playlists.

“This move won Sportscene a SA Hip-Hop Award for Coolest Brand Contribution to Hip-Hop, and the overall approach was so successful that Sportscene now has its own recording studio to deliver its audio identity. “said Savage.

Meet the needs of the public

The audience’s deep dive for Markham highlighted that his playlist needed to have a bit more broader market appeal; still youth oriented but more mid-tempo, a little more dance, a little more pop, a little less sharp.

“With Markham, we have a much larger audience that is more into a range of popular music,” says Savage.

He summarizes: “For Sportscene, we look at the biggest trends on TikTok to inform the playlist; for Markham, we look at the demographic trends of our audience on Spotify and traditional radio.

Interestingly, the biggest insight from Markham’s deep dive was that staff culture is critical to the brand.

While the staff feels part of the Markham family, for shoppers the staff contribute positively to the overall shopping experience.

As a result, inBroadcasting has included staff in its strategy to help develop playlists and do all the readings live.

The power of lightweight technology

“For us, the retail radio space was ground zero when it came to putting the technology to the test,” he says. “And it’s more than up to the occasion.”

Savage argues that it would be downright foolish to ignore the power of lightweight technology when it comes to solving or guiding solutions for heavy-duty problems, especially in an industry that is under tremendous pressure to reduce the costs of inputs.

Frustrated with the structure and costs associated with traditional broadcasting and advertising, Savage turned to digital radio and launched The Eye, a highly targeted on-demand digital radio station with regular contributors/DJs and a fully integrated advertising model to embed brand culture. in its programming.

“The Eye was intended to be the learning curve where the team could explore technology and the market to build a lightweight (read: flat structured, nimble and inexpensive) radio station that could deliver the same, if not better. , for advertisers than those provided by large commercial radio stations,” he says.

A massive paradigm shift

“Everyone knows that today’s mobile devices have the same features and capabilities as an entire broadcast station. But five years ago, we didn’t know how to apply that to radio.

“Getting deeply involved in technology development, the ‘backend’ so to speak, was what really started this journey.

“And yes, the ability to record and broadcast audio digitally to millions of people is pretty simple, but there were many other components that we needed to understand – analytics, algorithms, etc.,” says Savage.

It’s here, at the front end, that things got exciting. The application of technology and AI to the actual product was revolutionary. For example, Spotify’s advanced algorithm is able to compile playlists for subscribers based on data from many sources.

“We wondered how we could apply a similar approach to a broadcast audience that doesn’t interact with us directly? »

The solution was in technology.

“This led us to explore the retail radio space and incorporate data from the analysis of shopper behavior and social media engagements to create a very lean and highly efficient retail radio environment – an environment that is perhaps more efficient than a commercial radio station but could deliver the proverbial products at a fraction of the price.

For many, this is a massive paradigm shift.

Provide accurate metrics

First, the physical part. For many, “radio” equates to a famous DJ behind a big computer screen with a big SM7B radio broadcast mic, a massive mixer, callers phoning, and senior executives sitting upstairs. The reality is, as Savage has proven, the same product can be delivered remotely using a mobile phone.

Second, with “big radios”, audience reach and engagement metrics have only ever been “best guesses” (small groups of people sampled to provide data that was then extrapolated to minutes, hours, weeks and months).

This meant that a brand paying to reach a certain radio station’s millions of listeners paid for the association with that radio station and for the potential audience, never a guaranteed audience.

In contrast, the digital audio space can provide much more accurate measurements. It can tell how many people listened to the ad (not just the content but the ad itself), how many took action or engaged with it, and whether it converted into a direct sale.

Third, the analytics provided by today’s technology – and Savage is obsessed with analytics – means that it’s no longer people sitting in a room deciding which playlists to play.

Machine learning and Spotify, TikTok and Facebook analytics are used to study audiences and truly connect with them.

Going deeper, Savage’s inBroadcasting team explores dips and spikes in shopping behavior to understand what might have caused them, then adapts programming to replicate them to create software assets that will track conversion metrics. Sales.